My file organization is miserable. There are files and images all over my Mac system and while I’d like to keep things neat, I realize it’s never going to happen. Instead, is there some smart way I can have the system organize things for me?
You ask a great question because it turns out that there’s a very nice feature in Mac OS X that lets you scatter your files to the four winds — at least proverbially! — and still have things neat and ready to go. Actually, once Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks comes out, there’ll be a different solution with tags and tagging, a way to keyword files, documents, folders, images, etc for a specific client, etc, but you don’t need that to solve the problem.
Turns out that the solution is a simple, unsung feature of Mac OS X called “smart folders”. Essentially, it’s a magical file folder that shows you the result of a specific type of search, dynamically updating the contents as things on the file system change or update.
Smart Folders are really slick, actually, and even more so if you are inheriting a poor file organization from someone else. I use it to match filenames but you can also match the content of files too.
For example, I have a Mac Smart Folder that’s every file, photo, graphic, document etc that has the acronym “seo” within its filename. Here’s how I set it up…
I started by cmd-clicking on the Finder icon on the Dock:
You can also find this option in the “File” menu when in the Finder if you don’t want to be quite as fancy as me. Either way it creates an empty folder with very little explanation:
Not much info to go on, is there? Still, you know the trick: enter a search in the search box.
As you type it’ll offer variations, as is common. I’ll enter “seo” and see what transpires:
Obviously it’s doing a realtime match of the pattern, which is why all of this content suddenly shows up. More importantly, notice that the box under the search suggests a slightly different search, where filename matches “seo”.
Sounds good. I click on that and the result:
Once I ascertain that the search results are the set of matches I desire and that I don’t want to check shared drives or add any other nuances to the results filtering, a click on the small “Save” button immediately below the search box is the next step required.
Mac OS X prompts me to name this Smart Folder and identify where I’m going to store it on the system to start:
I don’t quite pick those options but instead want it in the middle of everything, on my Desktop:
And once I click “Save” the result itself shows up on the Desktop as we’d hope, with a pretty cool file icon:
Looks like a daisy, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s the folder that Gatsby would use to store his dreams?
Ah, either way, now you know how to create Smart Folders. It’s a cool, under-utilized feature of Mac OS X, for sure!